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Walleye Fishing

Updated on June 15, 2013

You don't have to live in Canada, or the Midwest to enjoy walleye fishing. While a cool water fish, native to, and most abundant in most of the fresh water lakes and rivers within the majority of the Canadian provinces, and the North Central US, this relatively massive member of the perch family has been introduced by anglers to a large number of states West of the Rockies and East of the Appalachians as well. As such, most of the lower 48 states today can call itself home to an established walleye population. If you live in the US, however, and you're really interested in stocking up on this popular game fish, Canada and the Midwest are undoubtedly the best places to visit.

The following tips for walleye fishing derived from my own personal experiences catching walleye exclusively within Minnesota, and the Ontario and Manitoba provinces in Canada. However, I wouldn't contest their helpfulness in catching walleye in other portions of North America as well.

Lake Mille Lacs

I caught my first walleye in my late teens fishing on Lake Mille Lacs, a two hundred square mile lake in central Minnesota. Located about a hundred miles north of the Twin Cities, Mille Lacs is one of the most popular walleye fishing lakes in the world. As such, there couldn't be a better place to become acquainted with Minnesota's most popular game fish. It was during that weekend in the early 1990's, while on my first trip to Mille Lacs, that I personally first learned about this adamantly sought after underwater delicacy: in particular, where to find them, and how to catch and clean them.

Fishing from a boat with a depth finder, after locating a reef, (typically evidenced by a sudden and abrupt change in water depth), within relatively shallow water, we ignited the boat's trolling motor, and baited our hooks with sucker minnows. The secret, I was told, to catching walleye was to tie the sinker roughly 18 inches above the hook, making the minnow used for bait appear vital, and free of suspicion to any underwater predators. Having done this, while trolling along the reef, occasionally steering the boat to the left and to the right to avoid straight line motion, (as this prevented our bait from moving at a consistent velocity), it wasn't long before I reeled in my first walleye. It was 18 inches in length, (a very good eating size). Speaking of eating size, I'll never forget enjoying it's tender fillets later that evening. With help from some of the more experienced fishermen I was with at the time, I consumed perhaps the best fish meal I'd ever eaten. (For tips on cleaning and preparing walleye fillets, see my article, "How to Prepare Mouth Watering Walleye and Pike Fillets at the following URL:

I later read that the method for catching walleye I learned on Lake Mille Lacs that weekend is very popular amongst fishermen. However, through subsequent personal experience I discovered it certainly isn't the only way to catch them.


Several years after my Mille Lacs experience, I discovered a new, and much simpler way to catch walleye. Coincidentally I learned this new method while fishing on a lake called Lac Dec Mille Lacs, in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. Fishing for pike, another popular game fish, I soon discovered I was catching more walleye using spoons and minnow lures, (popular tackle for catching pike and muskies), than I ever thought possible. This method required a great deal more casting and reeling than the trolling method I first experienced on Lake Mille Lacs, but no sinkers, live bait, or fancy boat steering was required. I just simply found a location on the lake that appeared promising, (reefs, small inland bays, and moderately shallow areas near rocky shores), attached a spoon or minnow lure to my line, and began casting. I caught one noteworthy 25'' walleye, the largest member of this species that I've reeled in to this date, utilizing this method, as well as dozens of smaller ones, in the 15'' to 24'' range.

I've caught walleye on Lac Des Mille Lacs, as well as on other Canadian lakes, using the live bait method referenced above as well, but I've since resorted to the spoon and minnow lure method for most of my walleye fishing since then, on Canadian lakes, as well as while fishing in my home state of Minnesota. It seems to work as well, or even better than using live bait, and the constant casting and reeling keeps me active, which I typically prefer while fishing. Furthermore, it doesn't involve purchasing and carrying around live bait to supplement with your tackle. Rather, with regards to bait, an ample supply of spoons and minnow lures is all you need.

Fishing from Shore

While a boat is certainly a bonus when it comes to fishing in general, one should never rule out the notion of fishing from the shore. I've caught numerous fish, many of which were walleye, from a variety of different lake and river shores.

Speaking from these experiences, if it's walleye you're after, the best places from shore to fish from are oftentimes open, rocky areas where the waives crash in, at the mouth of a stream, if possible, as this is oftentimes where their spawning beds are located. If you can find an ideal area like the above-referenced from shore during the Springtime, particularly during May, or the first half of June, you'll likely have your best luck, as walleye tend to remain in shallow waters this time of year. You may get fortunate fishing for them from shore during the summer as well, but more than a couple months past their spawning season, they become more unpredictable as to the depths in which they'll reside. My advice is to experiment with different shore locations during different times of year to discover the most ideal spot to stake your walleye fishing claim.

Just about any bait or lure will work from shore: I've had luck with everything from jigs to mister twisters. I've had by far my best luck, however, using spoons, minnow lures, and live sucker minnows. After finding the right location to begin casting my line using these kinds of bait, during the right time of year, it's not uncommon for me to reel in my daily quota within a manner of a few hours.

Shore fishing has the disadvantage of more numerous encounters with snags, but it's certainly more relaxing than fishing from a boat. Even while remaining mobile, if you've picked the right spot during the appropriate time of year, you can have identical luck fishing from shore as well. Regardless, whether you're fishing from a boat, or from your foldout chair off a dock or rocky bank near a bay, I hope these tips have been helpful, and I wish you the best of luck with your walleye fishing expeditions.


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